At the beginning of Lent, I was chatting with a close friend on the phone and she told me that she and her husband planned to give up guilt for Lent, in favour of gratitude. By this they meant not guilt for actual wrongs done, the natural response to sin and hurting others, but rather shame—the feeling of unworthiness or unlovableness that we can sometimes fall prey to when we make a mistake or fail to prevent something out of our control.
Giving up such negative feelings, and looking for ways to turn difficult situations into opportunities to see the good and give thanks for it struck me as a great idea. So in the spirit of practicing gratitude, I will share a list of blessings I’m grateful for with you right now:
1. When my mother-in-law sent me birthday money this year, I decided to put it towards Kindle Unlimited, and have been enjoying reading lots of books on my iPad when I can’t sleep lately. Tonight I’m reading 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, and the first one they don’t do is indulge in pity parties! So I’ve put away the balloons and party hats, and brought out my gratitude list instead. 🥳
2. Various back aches and late pregnancy cramps made the midwives give me an ultimatum: no more vacuuming or carrying heavy things like the laundry basket to your outdoor laundry room under the stairs. What great things to give up for Lent! 🤣 I’m grateful my husband has taken over the laundry, and that he now has more first hand experience of this charming chore. “Is there more dirty laundry already? I feel like I just did a bunch!” Exactly honey. So it goes.
3. I had a nice outing to the dollar store with my daughter on the way home from ballet class, and bought cute socks for myself and the baby to put in our hospital bag. His have tiny blue stars, and mine say on the soles, “If you can see this, rub my feet.” Thought they might make the nurses laugh.
4. I’m also really grateful for Jenn Dean, a parenting coach from the Families Matter Most podcast. I first saw her speak at on online homeschool conference recently, and found her approach to fostering positive thinking though addressing core beliefs which influence our behaviour so compelling that I’ve started doing some coaching with her on Zoom. She’s great!
Jenn encouraged me to journal and keep track of my thought processes, especially when something goes wrong, so I can be aware of what core belief is affecting my response. Sometimes that belief could actually be a lie, such as “Such and such went wrong because I’m useless and mess up everything.” In this case, awareness of the lie is a necessary step to be freed from it and embrace the truth, which is simply that some days are harder than others, and tomorrow is a chance to try again. I liked this journal and got it for myself.
5. I’m also grateful for the sweet surprises my friends have brought me lately, which are such a tangible sign of their affection and support. Isabela and Claudio brought us pizza buns and homemade chocolate chip cookie dough, Lisa brought us tiny red velvet cupcakes made by a talented coworker, and tonight, Sister Corina brought us Purdy’s chocolates and a fruit topped cheesecake! Yes, this baby is destined to be chubby and cute, and everyone is ensuring their part in that! 🥰
6. I could just keep going, but this list is getting long, so the last one for tonight is my amazing neighbour Lorie, a retired nurse who does professional house cleaning part time. She has been a total Godsend, and has been helping us declutter and clean our house, one room at a time. First, we tackled the garage, and after hiring the great guys from Half-Price Rubbish Removal, we now have so much more space to store things in an organized way. Everything is being sorted and labelled, such a bins of clothes for various kids to grow into. We even strung up a rope in the garage to hang extra or off season coats, so I can see what we have before buying new ones.
Sometimes it’s a struggle emotionally to let someone else help me deal with my mess, but in those moments I’m trying to reframe things. Instead of thinking, “I’ll never get organized on my own cause I’m too sloppy,” I think, “Caring for all my kids and house is a big job, and I’m so grateful to have friends willing to pitch in and help.” Lorie does such and good job, and is so cheerful about it, that we call her our “Fairy Clean Mother,” whose super power is making things sparkle. The kids love her, too, and are inspired to help out more, which is a huge bonus!
I captured this moment on a rare early morning walk alone on Ash Wednesday. My luxurious excuse for alone time? A 35 week pregnancy blood test. Yup, living it up here.
But I must say, the peaceful morning bird song and the sight of their feathers illumined from below by early sunrise were a treat. Since my pace right now is best described as moseying, I tried to make the best of it by taking time to notice the beauty above the city streets.
Despite the barren lack of leaves in the trees, tiny signs of spring could also be found at my feet.
After another long pandemic winter, it’s nice to see hints of hope…warmer days coming, brighter days, and new things, like my baby, in about a month!
These brave crocuses in my garden even survived our recent snowfall! So while I feel pretty much ready to wave the white flag and give up—enough winter, enough covid, enough late pregnancy—I’ll try to be brave and keep looking up to find the sun, and looking forward to those precious newborn snuggles, and remembering the reason it will all be worth it come spring.
Earlier this week, while trying to recover my homeschool room from the storm that was unsupervised making of thanksgiving posters and crafts, and involved strewing crayons and paper all over the floor, I discovered an old poem I had written years ago, in a beat up spiral notebook. I thought it had been lost forever, and regretted it as I could only remember the first metaphor in it, and wanted to know the rest.
The poem was written early my fourth pregnancy, which followed rapidly on the heels of my third, and writing this poem was part of my trying to wrestle through my mixed emotions I had at the time. Funny how blessings come in disguise…despite my misgivings, this little baby girl turned out to be my most gentle, sweet, affectionate and undemanding child. Her siblings have said this themselves, in all honesty. We are all blessed by her quiet kindness. Here she is a toddler…now she is 9!
Without further ado, here is the old poem from my notebook, long before my blogging days began. I’ll transcribe it above the photos, so you don’t have to try to decipher my scrawl.
I am like a winter tree
laid bare, stripped, naked,
yet secretly bursting with spring,
life swelling through my bare windswept skin.
I feel at once empty and ravenous
as a winter wolf or a nursing bear
emerging after a winter of sleep…
Yet inside me is a miniature universe,
a tiny piece of the puzzle of humanity,
forming rapidly in the dark warmth
of my womb.
I feel like a shipwrecked treasure chest
washed up on shore,
a waterlogged vessel filled with diamonds,
waiting to sparkle for the first time in the sun.
Inside me, a heart the size of a pea
is beating its way toward laughter, sorrow and love.
Sometimes with an ongoing difficulty, distraction is the best medicine…in the case of ongoing nausea in pregnancy, there are of course many things to be done. Eating small snacks and meals often, having enough protein, drinking ginger or peppermint tea, etc. But sometimes, despite best efforts, pregnancy can feel like a giant stomach flu whose only cure is constant eating…at the very time many foods seems repulsive.
Sometimes the best cure for feeling queasy is simply not thinking about it so much, but that is difficult to do by sheer will power alone. It helps instead, to be distracted and think of something else. This is where reading novels comes in. Or rereading them, as the case may be…almost all the books pictured above were rereads, because I love returning to familiar worlds whose characters I already “get along with” and whose adventures, despite all misadventures along the way, are comfortingly going to turn out well.
So why else do I think reading is great during pregnancy? Here’s a little list:
1. Reading is a great excuse to sit down, or lie down, and to take a quiet moment for yourself. Instead of telling your husband or kids, “I’m going to go stare at the ceiling and moan while my stomach churns,” you can say, “I’m going to go read my book for a little while while you guys play or watch a show.”
2. Sitting quietly and reading a book helps you take time to digest properly when your stomach is sensitive…instead of running around right after a meal cleaning up, which is a great way to lose your lunch.
3. There is so much focus on feeding your body well when pregnant, in order to help your baby be healthy, but what about feeding your soul? Reading novels that inspire you, make you laugh or cry, help you to love and to hope, is a way to feed your soul. Since your emotions and mental state affect your little one, you can see this reading as a way to build up your baby’s spirit.
4. What kind of books do I like? Because pregnancy is already a state of heightened emotion, I don’t recommend reading crazy thrillers or compelling tragedies, especially not the latter. I read the prequel to the Hunger Games (A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes) this spring, before we got pregnant, and I’m glad. It was an extremely scary portrait of a narcissist and I’m glad the baby couldn’t feel me trembling as I read deep into the night. Definitely a must read for any Suzanne Collins fan who isn’t in a super sensitive state, though!
I tried reading an early Canadian wilderness adventure novel, but had to put it down when each chapter’s tragedy was worse than the last.
Another kind of book on my “no thanks list” during pregnancy is parenting books. While this may seem counterintuitive, I find that many books on parenting can be so strongly worded about the “right way” to do just about everything, that they can lead to a huge introspective mom-guilt session…the last thing you need when already generously sharing your very being to help create new life.
I do love rereading classics by L.M. Montgomery, Jane Austen, and Louisa May Alcott. I also enjoyed rereading the Lord of the Rings trilogy…while darker than the others, the urgency and adventure certainly distracted me from my own little woes. If Frodo and Sam could half-starve while traveling through the wastelands of Mordor on a mission to save the world from evil, I could surely handle laying in bed eating yogurt and reading a book in order to help bring a new little life into the world.
In my last post, “Spot the Difference” I posted two pictures that my daughter drew of our family, and asked readers to spot the difference. Perhaps you’re all too busy with summer holidays to read or comment, or were simply hesitant to wager a guess, so here are a few more pictures that should make things a little more obvious.
And here’s the family member who isn’t in the photo, for the simple fact that this little bean didn’t exist yet, except, as the saying goes, as a twinkle in her father’s eyes. ✨
My sister has dubbed our new little one Timbit, because this is how James and I announced the baby to our other kids: we brought home a box of Timbits and told the kids we had a little piece of news for them, one currently smaller than a Timbit. After several guesses about things like Daddy buying me jewellery or something, and a hint that the news would not stay the size of a Timbit, the excited kids realized it was a baby.
Yup, it’s kinda crazy, but at this point, may as well own the crazy. Thinking of getting such a jersey for the baby to save trouble at the grocery store: “Oh, how cute! Is this your second? Third? Fourth?”
The last time I posted was over a month ago, a photo on Christmas Eve of my precocious four year old waiting in the stairway for Santa…fast asleep! After all the festivities, we’ve been busy getting back into the new homeschool year and working on various projects.
Besides being busy with my seven kids, here are three main reasons I’ve been absent from my blog:
1. I’ve been working really hard on my next poetry book, Velvet Flame, which I hope will come out later this year! 🙂
2. My friend Bonnie Way and I just finished our new e-book on pregnancy, birthing and early baby days, including mama self-care and the need for mom buddies, and it will be on sale in the Ultimate Bundles Women’s Wellness Bundle starting today!!
3. And in case you had any delusions of grandeur about me…the third reason I haven’t posted anything this year is that I lost my iPad under my bed for a month. A whole month. Yup. It had slipped down by the wall and was hiding behind my husband’s guitar case and some ferocious dust bunnies in a conniving attempt to prevent me from blogging….
But back to our new book, Beginner’s Guide to Growing Baby! 🙂 There are so many pregnancy books out there, and sometimes reading them can be stressful…so what makes ours different?
Rather than being by a one step-removed professional, it’s written by real moms in the trenches of family life–vets in a way–because between us both we have experienced 13 pregnancies and births. So we have had lots of chances to struggle, make mistakes and learn better ways to manage, and want to share them with you.
These short, easy to read chapters represent the best advice we would honestly share with you if you came over for coffee…what worked for us, what was hard, and what helped, every step of the way. We are sharing the stories of our families with you, and encourage you to be the hero of your own story. Rest in what feels right; Mama knows best, for each baby.
Beginners Guide to Growing Baby is full of practical tips and tricks on surviving nausea, exhaustion and huge emotions, pregnancy-safe cures for colds and flu, how to get enough fibre, how to prevent or minimize tearing at birth, and how to adjust to early days of breastfeeding, including what to do if you get mastitis. Bonnie is also an avid researcher of natural remedies, and as an herbalist’s daughter, I’ve used many of them effectively myself, so we write about quite a few. We have experienced births with doctors, midwives, in the hospital and at home, so you can read about many possibilities. We hope learning about different options will empower you to make informed choices about what works for you and your baby.
May our stories of pregnancy, birthing, and early days of parenthood help give you courage on your journey to motherhood! We want you to know you’re not alone, but part of a huge sisterhood, here not to compare and compete, but to care for each other and cheer each other on.
If you’d like to check out the Women’s Wellness bundle this week (as it is only for sale from Feb. 5th-10th), and see all the e-books on health, diet, exercise, online courses on mama self-care, mental and emotional health, and many other resources it includes, here’s the link: Women’s Wellness Bundle.
I have footprints on my heart. Don’t think that because they were left there four years ago they have faded. The impact of those tiny feet on my heart is irrevocable. I will be forever changed by losing a baby at birth. Besides a tiny curl of dark hair, all I physically have of her is a little plaster cast of her feet. Of course it is unspeakably precious to me. I have it nestled in a piece of the same fleecy soft blanket she is buried in. This is much more than many poor women who lose babies through miscarriage get.
Those of you who are close to me or have been following my blog for some time will know that I lost my baby Josephine just before she was born, due to a cord accident. She was my sixth and I was so ready for her to come…the bassinet set up, newborn diapers on the shelf, the house stocked with groceries…I even had her Christmas present already: a wind-up musical swan with her baby on her back.
She was fine at our last checkup, and then, that night in the hospital…no heartbeat. Just silence. Of course it broke my heart. My family and friends, sweet husband and kids helped hold it together.
She would have been four years old this Sunday, September 30th.
Four years and two healthy babies later, I am much more ok than I was at her first anniversary, or even her second, but sometimes things catch me off guard. I was trying to plan her birthday…maybe lots of us could go to the graveyard and bring tons of flowers…and then I thought, four year olds don’t want flowers! They want toys, and cake and balloons…music and mess and the chaos of 20 kids running through the house dressed as fairies and princesses. It hurts that I can’t give her those things, even though she doesn’t need them. Even though she’s up with the stars and her heart is brimming with love, utterly safe, totally loved, in the peaceful presence of God. I still want to do these simple, silly things for her.
So, we do what we can. The kids and I have made it a birthday week. The other day when we ordered groceries from Save-On, we got chocolate cake. We put on candles and sang. We celebrate her because we love her. We are proud she’s part of our family.
We ordered ice-cream, too and had it the next day. Ben and Jerry’s “If I had a Million Flavours.” We made blueberry crisp, too. We will have mini-cereal boxes on her birthday, as we do for the other kids on their birthdays, because they need her to be just another one of them. She’s in Heaven, but she’s still their sister.
On Sunday after Mass and pancakes we will go to the graveyard and bring flowers. We will spend a little time near her praying, and the little ones will likely run about on the grass and read the names of the people who’ve gone before us: young soldiers from the bicycle squad, grandmas and grandpas from the old country, mothers, fathers, babies who never took a breath outside the womb. All the people who await us in Heaven.
Then, because it’s nice to not be alone on this bittersweet day, we will pick up some of our favourite Indian take-out and go to have dinner at a friend’s place. Surrounded by love, just like our daughter Josephine.
Next week we will plant fall flower bulbs to bloom next spring, just like we did last year: Josephine’s flowers. Hiding under the earth and snow, but secretly full of life. Like the promise of eternal life…always making this life more beautiful.
We want her to be remembered. We are proud to be her family. Sharing her story helps us to honour her and to heal, and to know we are not alone.